Touch the patient, look them in the eye, and hear their story.

June 11, 2016

     Last night at our final group meeting of the trip, each team member was challenged to answer the question "How did you make a difference?" To an outsider, this question may seem like it has a simple answer such as "we helped a lot of people" but once you have experienced this trip and have gained a deeper understanding of this culture, you find yourself at a loss for words. As Americans, we often take our healthcare for granted. Due to local urgent cares and emergency rooms, we can pretty much be seen by a medical professional and treated no matter the time of day. Cambodians do not have this luxury. Yes, healthcare is free in Cambodia so some may ask why we are devoting so much time, money, and energy into something that is already "provided". The key factor to take into consideration when thinking about this situation is not the cost of healthcare but rather the accessibility and quality of healthcare being received.  Last week at clinic, we were given the opportunity to tour the health center that has been established in the village. When we arrived, the buildings and grounds looked vacant and dilapidated. There wasn't a physician on site and the only patient was laying on a bare bed outside in the heat. The conditions at this health center were far less than optimal so it truly puts into perspective the quality of healthcare that they receive if they choose to seek help.  If someone acquires an injury, they can not afford to skip work to go to the city to see a doctor. They must continue to work to provide for their family even if they're in physical pain.

     Through this trip, we provided individuals in rural villages access to healthcare and patient education that they otherwise would have never received. Even if we didn't have the means to physically help a patient in that moment, we still actively tried to improve their quality of life through counseling, referring them to a hospital, or even by simply giving them a pair of glasses. Through our love, attention, and care we truly touched many lives. Each and every one of us made a difference in the lives of our patients but I think the true beauty of this trip is the impact that the Khmer people had on our lives and how the lessons learned from these patients will follow us through our educational and professional careers for years to come.

Anna Lisa Ciarrocca, Undergraduate Student

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